Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40
WEDNESDAY 14 FEBRUARY 2001
40. If they have come back, it is mainly because
of trade with Ireland rather than trade with the rest of the world
which is the traditional area in which they operated.
(Mr Reeves) Yes, there is booming container and ferry
traffic to Ireland and it also became very important to bulk and
semi-bulk traffic. You are quite right that their traffic did
decline right down to not much more than 10 million tonnes in
the mid-1980s, but there has been a huge turnround. Only the other
day the port company, Mersey Docks, actually acquired the Port
41. If you buy a new port that is a mark of
your success, is it?
(Mr Reeves) No, I was merely going to say that this
is part of the dynamic in the industry which illustrates how the
industry changes. Liverpool is certainly a classic example, though
there are many others, of the way in which changing trade patterns
have affected a port but in Liverpool's case it has found new
traffics and a great deal of success again.
42. Before we leave that subject, I note that
you say in one of your pieces of evidence that you have a responsibility
under the Competition Act in respect of ports. I do not actually
understand how a dominant position would ever be established under
the Competition Act for ports because none of them would ever
have a sufficient percentage of the market.
(Mr Wadsworth) Very often these questions depend on
how the competition authorities define the market, indeed there
have been some recent investigations in this very matter by DGIV
at the European competition level in respect of the North European
container market. It very much comes down to the judgement of
the competition authority about how the market properly be defined,
how limited or how extensive it should be geographically.
43. Looking at issues of competition and cooperation,
do you count the Channel Tunnel as a port?
(Mr Wadsworth) Actually yes; it is not technically
44. But it falls within your remit in the DETR.
(Mr Wadsworth) No, it does not. The Channel Tunnel
is handled separately.
45. Who is monitoring the impact the Channel
Tunnel has had on Folkestone, Dover and Ramsgate?
(Mr Wadsworth) We are from the ports perspective certainly.
46. Moving on to other issues to do with the
environment, do you think the port industry is aware of its responsibilities
to the environment?
(Mr Wadsworth) Yes, certainly all the major ports
are very much aware of that. They have expressed some concern
about the implications of it in their submissions to you which
we understand. Some very good examples of environmental mitigation
work have been undertaken in connection with previous port expansions,
for example at Felixstowe, though that is not the only example.
47. Would their responsibilities to the environment
include having a view as to how goods were being shipped out of
their ports, whether it was by road or rail?
(Mr Wadsworth) Yes.
48. I do not know whether it was a slip of the
tongue, but when you told us your role in the DETR, you mentioned
road haulage, but you did not indicate that you had any responsibility
for rail as far as ports are concerned.
(Mr Wadsworth) I do take quite a keen interest in
rail freight matters, but there is a separate Railways Directorate
within the Department and I am not directly responsible for railway
matters in the Department.
49. Environmental concern and joined-up government
have not got as far as giving you some role in the way goods are
shipped out of ports if they go by train.
(Mr Wadsworth) The SRA has now taken responsibility
for, for example, the administration of the freight facilities
grants which are available to promote the use of rail out of ports.
I would not like to suggest that organisational boundaries have
stood greatly in the way of that in the past. The record is quite
good. We hope it could be better. It is a fact that the railways
have quite a significant market share of the inland container
distribution market and indeed the traffic has been growing very
strongly on the freight line in recent years.
50. Whereas organisational boundaries may not
have got in the way, if you have responsibility for ports and
for road transport from ports, then when you are sitting in the
evening having your cocktail, I imagine it is road transport and
ports you are going to be thinking about, not rail. Are you in
a position to be pro-active, to encourage rail transport from
(Mr Wadsworth) Yes; absolutely. I am not sure I can
afford to have cocktails in the evening, but I do take a strong
interest in rail transport and I do see it as part of my role
to work with my colleagues in the Department to try to maximise
the opportunities for rail distribution out of ports.
51. In terms of conflicts which arise when planning
sustainable development strategies, how does the DETR get involved
in conflict resolution?
(Mr Wadsworth) Do you mean particularly in respect
of rail or more generally?
52. More generally.
(Mr Wadsworth) There is quite a substantial planning
process for major port developments, which the ports themselves
have commented on in their submissions. The DETR is involved in
the context of the harbour orders which are often needed for ports
development and expansion and of course wearing a different hat
in the planning process itself. It is through those processes
that we pursue sustainable development in the port sector.
53. I am told that the Habitats Directive allows
for special areas of conservation to be defined and in Europe
they have been defined in such a way as not to interfere with
ports. However, there has been some criticism that for example
the Severn and Humber in this country do get in the way of the
ports. Would you like to comment on that?
(Mr Wadsworth) Our understanding is that the European
Instrument requires that areas be designated on scientific criteria
alone and not on the basis of commercial criteria and indeed that
judgement has recently been confirmed by the European Court of
Justice (ECJ). It is true that one of our ports has recently done
an analysis of what is happening on the other side of the Channel
and has apparently discovered that the same interpretation does
not appear to have been applied in a number of European neighbour
countries. We have indeed drawn the European Commission's attention
to this. The next step in these things is for the Commission and
Member States collectively to review these proposed draft designations,
which I believe is going to happen in September.
(Mr Reeves) Yes.
(Mr Wadsworth) We shall certainly be drawing attention
to any apparent discrepancies when it comes to discussing these
54. Will the response be any quicker than the
four years it took to get today's communiqé?
(Mr Wadsworth) I hope so. Do we have any firm indication
(Mr Reeves) I do not know whether the Commission has
a firm timetable. That is stage two of the process. The first
stage is for the Member States to put forward their candidate
list, then the Commission and Member States meet and make a global
assessment of that. What the outcome will be and the timescale
for that is not clear to me. I only know that the science involved
in this is quite difficult in some respects.
55. You talk a lot about safety levels in the
ports industry. Why is it one of the most dangerous in the United
(Mr Wadsworth) Perhaps the Health and Safety Executive
may have more detailed views on that, but our discussions with
them have tended to the view that there are issues to do with
training and to do with the management of ports which could be
56. Why are there two separate bodies dealing
with safety and training in ports?
(Mr Reeves) That is probably more a question for the
ports industry themselves.
57. Come now, Mr Reeves. They did not write
(Mr Reeves) I am quite happy to have a stab at it.
58. The Government wrote this document not the
ports industry. It is called Modern Ports: A UK Policy.
(Mr Reeves) We reflect the position as we find it.
What I was going to say was that the Port Safety Organisation
(PSO) and the British Ports Industry Training (BPIT) being there
reflect, as I understand it, what happened after the breakup of
the British Ports Federation and so on. That is the history.
59. That is the history. But what does "higher
profile support" mean?
(Mr Reeves) Ministers set great store by training
as a means of raising standards and promoting safety. We have
the BPIT, which is an accredited national training organisation.